Candidates for advancement at every level are encouraged to provide a statement explaining their goals and describing them within the context of their field of interest and the priorities of their Department. Such a statement can help the Chair, the Dean, a campus Review Committee, the Council on Academic Personnel, and the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel to better understand a candidate’s career plans and goals for attaining them.
Writing such a statement can be a challenge—most of us don’t like to boast, and false modesty can be even more difficult. Here are some suggestions:
- Remember that the document will be read by multiple audiences, some of whom will not be familiar with your field of expertise. So make an effort to explain your accomplishments in words and concepts that can be understood by all. Try to emphasize the importance of the research, the major questions it addresses, and how it fits into a broader context.
- Be honest. None of us is perfect, and there are likely to be certain areas in which your accomplishments are stronger than others. A self statement that exaggerates accomplishments and brushes away weaknesses will be dismissed by reviewers. If you had a really dreadful semester of teaching, acknowledge that, explain why you think it was, and tell people what you think you learned from it. By the same token, if you think an apparently minor publication or award was important, explain why.
- Be brief. Although there is no limit, try to not exceed 3 pages.
- From among the publications that have appeared since your last CAP action (or a longer interval, if the action requires a career review), it is often helpful to choose up to 5, and explain their significance. Assistant Professors seeking promotion should consider the entire period at that rank, not just the time that has elapsed since the 4th year review.
- If you publish with co-authors, clarify your role in the work. This is especially important for individuals at the Assistant Professor level, since evidence of independence in research and creativity are important factors in decisions about promotion. Especially when the majority of publications also have your mentor as a co-author, there may be questions about independence.
- Address all the areas that are important for advancement: teaching, research and creativity, University and public service, and professional activity.
- Self-statements should be tailored to the specific academic action and deal with the issues that are specific to that action. For example, CAP’s decision to give a “Favorable” 4th year appraisal often rests on evidence that the candidate is achieving research independence and will receive peer reviewed funding (in disciplines where that is expected) in the next few years, prior to coming up for tenure. So address those issues. When a candidate is being considered for advancement to Professor VI (or Above Scale), the review not only considers the accomplishments of the entire career, but also ongoing and current activities over the years that have elapsed since advancement to Professor V (or IX). The candidate should provide convincing evidence for significant accomplishments over both time periods.